Oakland Raiders: Immediate 53-Man Roster-Cut Predictions Post-Win
With the preseason having concluded, the Oakland Raiders have until Saturday to pare the roster down to 53 players. Some of the cuts are obvious, but there are several that will remain a mystery until the team's official announcement.
Oakland's roster underwent a massive rebuild this past offseason, which meant that almost every spot on the roster was there for the taking. Whether it was for a starting spot or for depth, there were a lot of players on the Raiders' roster who were not only playing for a roster spot but also for substantial playing time.
Different players came in with different levels of expectations. Some, such as Greg Little, were looked at as possibly becoming major factors for the team. Others, such as rookie T.J. Carrie, were intriguing prospects, but the team was more interested in whether he could actually play in the NFL than if he could actually contribute this season.
After training camp and a full preseason, every player on the roster has had the opportunity to earn a roster spot. The official cuts won't be known until Saturday, but there's enough of a sample to predict which direction the Raiders will go at every position.
Here's the likely 53-man roster that'll begin the 2014 NFL season.
On Roster (3): Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, Matt McGloin
Carrying only two quarterbacks is becoming more common in the NFL, but the Raiders will go with three in 2014.
Despite Schaub's subpar performance throughout the preseason, CSNBayArea.com's Scott Bair reports that head coach Dennis Allen remains firm in his stance that Schaub will start for Oakland to begin the season. This depends on how Schaub recovers from his elbow soreness next week, but if he's healthy, the job is his.
Heading into the final preseason game, Carr was given the opportunity to run the first-team offense, and he wasn't just good. He was great. But it wasn't enough to sway Allen's decision regarding the depth chart. However, the situation has now turned into not if, but when, Carr is going to take over this season. Two or three losses in a row, and Allen will be under too much pressure to not make the switch.
McGloin will never be a starter in the NFL, but he's proven to be one of the league's better backups. He's not afraid to make any pass, but this continues to be a hit-and-miss approach. It leads to too many bad passes, making him unreliable over a long period. However, if Oakland finds itself in a crunch, McGloin is capable of pulling out a victory.
Especially given Schaub's suddenly suspect health, McGloin could find himself as the No. 2 quarterback at some point this season.
On Roster (3): Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray
Cut (2): Jeremy Stewart, George Atkinson III
The top three spots on the depth chart at running back were already set during training camp, and nothing happened to change that during the preseason. Jones-Drew and McFadden are going to split carries fairly evenly, and each will get plenty of opportunities to make plays. Oakland will likely let them play their way into a rhythm and will go with whoever's hot in any given game.
The most intriguing member of the group is Murray. He was solid throughout the preseason, and when he was the featured back in the final preseason game, he really shined. His running was decisive and powerful on the way to finishing with 41 yards and a touchdown on eight carries against the Seattle Seahawks.
He'll have a hard time getting carries early in the season. But given the injury history of the running backs in front of him, it's likely that he'll get a chance to shine at some point.
The toughest cut here will be Atkinson III, who performed well both as a running back and as a returner. Unfortunately, there isn't a roster spot for him, but the Raiders will hope nobody picks him up so they can hide him away on the practice squad.
On Roster (2): Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale
Cut (1): Karl Williams
As NFL teams continue to phase out the fullback position, the Raiders will head into this season with two of them on the roster. The difference is that both Reece and Olawale have unique skill sets that make them extremely intriguing options within the Oakland offense.
Reece remains one of the most underused weapons in the league. He's an excellent blocker, and he has the speed to excel both as a runner and as a receiver. The biggest challenge for the Raiders will be finding ways to get him involved, but there were signs of that during the preseason. The more touches he gets, the more dangerous the offense will be.
Olawale will find most of his playing time on special teams, where he's proven to be effective. He's also shown himself to be a capable replacement for Reece. With the amount of responsibility Reece has on offense as a blocker, runner and receiver, the Raiders will keep Olawale both to solidify the special teams and as an insurance plan in case Reece can't play at any point during the season.
On Roster (5): James Jones, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, Brice Butler, Andre Holmes
Cut (2): Greg Little, Seth Roberts
When Schaub was running the offense this preseason, the wide receivers regularly looked overmatched by the opposing defense. It seemed as if no one could get open or consistently hold onto the ball. But when they played with a quarterback who could get them the ball, this group of receivers showed what they could really do.
Jones and Streater didn't get to play with Carr and McGloin, but they're already the likely starting receivers to begin the season. As for Moore, Butler and Holmes, they left no doubt that they can have an impact on the game.
Against Seattle, Moore seemed to get whatever he wanted en route to scoring two touchdowns. He was once considered a possible camp casualty, but the San Jose Mercury News' Steve Corkran reports that Moore likely did enough against Seattle to secure his roster spot.
Butler scored yet another touchdown as he continued to show an ability to get open and haul in passes, and Holmes proved his ability to stretch the field as he averaged over 16 yards per catch.
A receiver's success always is dependent in part on the quarterback's ability to get them the ball. With Carr (or even McGloin) under center, this group has the talent to succeed.
Little teased with his potential, but he wasn't able to shed the stigma that led to his release from the Cleveland Browns. Despite his prototypical size and speed, he remained inconsistent in catching the ball, and he didn't truly impress at any point. If Oakland decided to keep a sixth receiver, Little would be it, but they'll stick with five.
He'll find a roster spot somewhere in 2014, but it won't be in Oakland.
On Roster (3): Mychal Rivera, David Ausberry, Brian Leonhardt
Cut (2): Jake Murphy, Scott Simonson
Oakland's once-promising group of tight ends is now one of the team's thinnest position groups.
Ausberry entered camp as the projected starter at the position, but he's been out with a knee injury. CSNBayArea.com's Scott Bair tweeted that Ausberry is expected to return to practice on Monday, but it's still unclear when he'll be game-ready. Until he is, the team can't depend on him.
Leonhardt was pushed into the second tight end spot out of necessity. Fortunately, he showed to at least be able to hold his own throughout the preseason. This will be especially important because to start the season, Leonhardt will not only play, he'll be depended on, primarily as a blocker.
The one positive at the position is Rivera. He's improved as a blocker, and he's proven to be a legitimate receiving threat. He'll begin the season as the starting tight end, and given how he looked throughout the preseason, he'll likely keep this spot throughout the season.
On Roster (9): Stefen Wisniewski, Austin Howard, Donald Penn, Menelik Watson, Khalif Barnes, Kevin Boothe, Gabe Jackson, Tony Bergstrom, Matt McCants
Cut (5): Dan Kistler, Erle Ladson, Lamar Mady, Jack Cornell, Jarrod Shaw
The starting offensive line is mostly set, although the coaching staff still needs to figure out what to do at left guard and right tackle. Barnes has played both, and he's performed well at both positions. If he stays at right guard, Watson will start at right tackle. If Barnes starts at tackle, Jackson will step in at left guard.
Barnes' versatility is one of the unit's strongest features. ESPN.com's Bill Williamson notes that wherever the coaches have played Barnes, he's been solid. This type of adaptability can ensure the offensive line's continued effectiveness.
Not only do the Raiders have a promising starting offensive line, there's also good depth at the position. Even if the a starter does go down with an injury at some point, the team has players who can move in seamlessly, and the line's effectiveness shouldn't see any significant drop-off.
Overall, the offensive line is arguably the Raiders' most solid group. Both the pass protection and the run blocking improved throughout the preseason, a positive sign for the offense. The unit will continue to build cohesion as the season progresses. This could turn into one of the better offensive lines in the league.
On Roster (8): Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, Justin Ellis, Pat Sims, Stacy McGee, Shelby Harris, C.J. Wilson
Cut (4): Autry Denico, Ryan Robinson, Jack Crawford, Ricky Lumpkin
Some of the biggest additions Oakland made this past offseason were along the defensive line. There's now plenty of talent at the position, but it's still working toward becoming an effective unit.
The starters will be able to hold their own this season, but there's uncertainty behind them. McGee, Harris and Wilson will get opportunities to play. Whether they'll be able maintain the performance standard that the starters set remains to be seen.
The most contested spot on this list was between Crawford and Wilson. Crawford could've earned this spot, but he didn't do enough to earn it. Wilson showed more potential. Neither was playing for a starting spot, but they would be expected to step in and play effectively in spot duty. At this point, Wilson is more likely to succeed in this role.
Harris is an interesting prospect. He was originally seen exclusively as a pass-rusher, but he exhibited a more well-rounded game during the preseason. He'll have opportunities to earn more playing time as the regular season progresses.
On Roster (6): Nick Roach, Sio Moore, Khalil Mack, Kaluka Maiava, Miles Burris, Kaelin Burnett
Cut (3): Carlos Fields, Bojay Filimoeatu, Spencer Hadley
The Raiders have quietly put together an exciting group of starting linebackers, and they also have good depth at the position.
Roach continues to be a reliable, steadying presence at middle linebacker, and Moore always seems on the verge of making a big play. The Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II notes that Mack started the preseason slowly, but he's now begun to perform like the player everyone expected him to be. He'll become more of a force as the season progresses.
If any of the starters go down with injury or underperform, Oakland can turn to Burris and Maiava, both of which played well during the preseason. If they do have to step in, this will still be a strong group.
The unit will experience some growing pains this season because Mack is still adjusting to the NFL, and Moore is only entering his second season in the league. But if this unit plays to its potential, it could turn into the defense's strongest unit.
On Roster (11): Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers, T.J. Carrie, Chimdi Chekwa, Keith McGill, Taiwan Jones, Neiko Thorpe, Charles Woodson, Usama Young, Tyvon Branch, Brandian Ross
Cut (2): Chance Casey, Jonathan Dowling
The Raiders' secondary struggled more than any other unit during the preseason. Other units had their ups and downs, but the secondary was consistently bad through four games.
Brown and Rogers will begin the season as the starters, but the other cornerbacks on the roster will continue to get their opportunities to earn playing time. Carrie, Chekwa and Thorpe will all be given time on the field, and this cornerback-by-committee approach will continue until one of them (hopefully) steps up.
The team is waiting for D.J. Hayden's return, but that won't happen until he's eligible to come off of the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Even when he does, any expectation of him somehow saving the unit is misguided. Hayden has yet to prove he can be a No. 1 cornerback. His return doesn't guarantee an improvement in performance from the unit.
At safety, Branch and Woodson will be solid, but there's no one to depend on behind them. Ross and Young will remain on the roster primarily because no one stepped up to take their place. Dowling had an opportunity, but he didn't do enough throughout training camp and the preseason to earn a roster spot. However, he's a top candidate for the practice squad.
On Roster (3): Sebastian Janikowski, Marquette King, Jon Condo
Cut (1): Giorgio Tavecchio
For all of the issues the Raiders have had over the last decade, the one area of the team they haven't had to worry about has been special teams. The one change has been King taking over the punting duties last season, but the team hasn't missed a beat. Tavecchio was brought in primarily to give Janikowski a rest, but this was just a preseason signing.
Condo remains a one of the NFL's best long snappers, and King has quickly become one of the best punters in the league.
The one unknown is Janikowski's accuracy. He still has plenty of power. If he can keep his kicks on target, the Raiders' kicking game will be one of the team's strongest areas.